NEW DCCC POLICY ON CANDIDATE FINANCIAL SUPPORT... OR IS IT?
The good, the bad, and the ugly
You may have noticed that we've been urging the DCCC to stop funneling all our contributions into the campaigns of Democratic incumbents who vote like Republicans. I thought they were ignoring us. And they probably were. But coincidentally they made an announcement today that seems to indicate-- though, being the wiggly creatures Inside the Beltway denizens usually are-- they left themselves plenty of wiggle room. A friend at the DCCC sent me this today:
We’ve got 40 more vulnerable Republicans to boot out of office in ’08. Unless the incumbent Frontline Democrats are seriously threatened, they’re on their own.
The DCCC has always been the heart and soul of the Democratic Incumbent Protection Racket. So this is news. Take a look at their Front Line Page. It's almost all the freshmen, institutionally viewed as being vulnerable unless they're in a solidly blue district like Yvette Clark's in Brooklyn. The only non-freshmen are basically Democrats who vote with Republicans on core matters-- the pro-war/pro-corporate, anti-woman/anti-gay end of the Democratic coalition, the Jim Marshalls, John Barrows, Melissa Beans... the putative Democrats whose rejection of Democratic values keeps Democratic voters from supporting them.
So DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen, apparently with the approval of Emanuel, Hoyer and Pelosi, has told Democratic caucus members that the DCCC intends to use its huge cash hoard (so far over $28 million compared to just negative one million for the little-loved Repugs) to go after Republican-held and open red seats next year, not to prop up incumbents.
But that's where the wiggle room comes in: "Unless the incumbent Frontline Democrats are seriously threatened." Look at that list of Front Liners again. Who is seriously threatened? Well, first, the only two incumbents who came close to losing their seats in a huge Democratic year in 2006 were Georgia Republicans-masquerading-as-Democrats, John Barrow and Jim Marshall. Both will need massive infusions of cash if they are to retain their seats next year since neither votes along Democratic lines. According to the most recent tally on Progressive Punch's "When the Chips Are Down" analysis Barrow votes most frequently for the Bush agenda and Marshall is #2. (Gene Taylor of Mississippi is the red meat between those two pieces of moldy white bread.) The other Democrats who look like they could be in trouble are egregious Blue Dog reactionary Melissa Bean (IL-08), JoeDonnellyBradEllsworthBaronHill (IN-02, 08, 09), the three identical voting conservatives who vote pretty much the same way the Republicans they beat would have voted half the time, Tim Mahoney (FL-16), Emanuel's actual Republican with a fresh Democratic voter registration (but who votes with his old party an awful lot), and then the two ultra reactionary freshmen from Pennsylvania, Chris Carney and Jason Altmire. The Democratic congressional caucus would be better off, at least from a meat and potatoes perspective, if these renegades and water-muddiers were all defeated.
But who is the DCCC recruiting? Whose campaigns will they be lavishing all those tens of millions of dollars on? A very mixed bag. Their favorite candidates were invited to a training session in Chicago a few weeks ago. Many of the invitees are grassroots Democrats with wide and clear support in their districts and who are battling against Republicans. These men and women should get all the aid possible from the DCCC and many participated in the training, such as Darcy Burner (WA), John Boccieri (OH), Charlie Brown (CA), Jim Himes (CT), Eric Massa (NY), Dan Maffei (NY), Mary Jo Price (OH), John Adler (NJ), Dick Versace (IL), Steve Driehaus (OH), Bill Kennedy (MT), Bob Lord (AZ), Ron Shepston (CA), John Unger (WV). Others are candidates involved in heated primaries where the DCCC is supposed to be neutral so that their districts can chose the best candidates.
But Emanuel and his minions are at work once again, selecting reactionary establishment candidates who will always be ready to step in and support Republican policies the way many of Emanuel's pre-selected candidates from last year do currently (Shuler, Mahoney, Hill, etc).
One of the worst examples of Rahm Emanuel interference so far this year is in Illinois' 14th CD, where a grassroots, progressive, John Laesch, is battling it out with Emanuel's millionaire Blue Dog shill Bill Foster. Several active participants in the training sessions, admitted to me off the record that Foster was an embarrassment and the least qualified candidate in the room. "He'll never make it," one told me. Another, after seeing Foster in action, asked me if I knew the best way for him to get in touch with John Laesch asap. Apparently no one is sharing that intelligence with Emanuel, who is still pushing Mr. Blue Dog hard. (Emanuel wasn't actually at the meeting. He sent his errand boys Nancy Pelosi and Chris Van Hollen to represent him and he just sent a video tape of himself telling the candidates to "move to the right" on immigration.)
A Republican publication in Illinois, the Illinois Review, in a reference to the Democratic race in a story about the Republicans battling it out to replace Hastert, mentions that "the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quietly is backing scientist and first-time candidate Bill Foster, who has pledged to pour $1 million each into both the primary and general elections." Emanuel has been holding secret fundraisers with sleazy donors for Foster and has been demanding that institutional donors freeze Laesch out, despite the fact that Laesch did better against Hastert than any other Democrat since his freshman year in Congress and captured parts of the district never won by a Democrat before-- and despite the fact that most of the elected Democratic Party committeemen in IL-14 have already endorsed Laesch.
So what's Emanuel's game? He generally votes with the Democratic majority on core issues but he aggressively seeks out reactionary candidates and does his best to destroy progressive and grassroots candidates. The Democrats' inability to get much done in this session is as attributable to Emanuel's candidate recruitment in 2005 as to Republican obstructionism and Bush's vetoes. Thwart Emanuel here any time.